WITH 45 people crammed into a small bar at the Low Lights Tavern, North Shields, we were so close to the actors we were praying for no halitosis (there was none).
The occasion was a welcome new venture into pub theatre, and the bar was bedecked with union flags and other memorabilia as we entered to a soundtrack of Vera Lynn, Neville Chamberlain and Glen Miller.
Singers Claire Kelly and Grace Ellen led a first half of unashamedly nostalgic WW2 communal singing, before the contrasting main event, Robbie Lee Hurst’s dramatic recitation of the long poem Arctic Convoy, penned by Sacriston sailor Kenneth Halliwell.
Soon after writing the poem Halliwell drowned on the appalling North Sea crossing which claimed 2,000 ships and 30,000 lives as the allies struggled to send enough supplies to keep Russia in the war.
Fittingly, the piece was performed in sight of the North Sea itself. It’s directed by Peter Latham and Jessica Johnson, and a minimal budget was offset by both the talent and commitment of company members.
It’s a reminder that the culture of pub theatre is long overdue in our own region, and might even help save some licensed premises from closure.